Explore the transformative potential of 'Sponge Cities' in New Zealand's battle against climate change-induced disasters. This presentation shares innovative and mātauranga Māori informed nature-based flood management strategies to build resilient, sustainable, and biodiverse urban environments.

Aotearoa New Zealand faces heightened risks from natural disasters like floods and cyclones due to climate change. A report by the Helen Clark Foundation and WSP suggests transforming urban areas into 'Sponge Cities' as a proactive strategy.

The current reliance on aging infrastructure falls short against increasing rainfall threats. Sponge Cities, inspired by ancient Chinese techniques, promote water harmony through innovative measures.

The presentation will share the key outputs from our work, that underscores key actions across a range of scales that support existing communities to transition our urban environments, incorporating mātauranga Māori to support future generations.  

Advocating for nature-based flood management, it proposes coordinated planning at national and local levels, urging incremental adoption of green infrastructure. In a conference session, urgency and recommendations will be highlighted, presenting Sponge Cities as a pathway to resilient, sustainable, and biodiverse urban futures.

Liam Foster


Liam Foster, a dynamic force at WSP, is a seasoned expert in sustainable urban development and climate resilience. With a robust background in flood resilience and a passion for innovative solutions, he has played a pivotal role in addressing the challenges posed by climate change-induced disasters. Liam spearheads transformative projects that integrate nature-based solutions. His commitment extends to incorporating indigenous knowledge and community-centric approaches for comprehensive flood management. A thought leader and advocate for resilient urban design, Liam navigates the intersection of infrastructure and sustainability, shaping a future where cities thrive in harmony with nature.

Kali Mercier

Helen Clark Foundation

Sponsored by Hynds

Best paper and presentation competition

Tuesday 21 May